The reminders are everywhere.
Every car ride. Every morning before school. After school. The horse in the backyard.
Terrez Coleman couldn’t decide on a name for his horse. The 7-year-old was with his older twin sisters and parents, riding home from a family reunion in August, when he finally picked a name for the new horse.
The car erupted with laughter. Before the family quieted down, Felicia Coleman, Terrez’s mother, heard a “pop” and a shriek. She thought a tire blew out.
Within minutes, her only son was dead, killed by a single bullet fired into their moving vehicle on Prescott Road near Joor Road about 11 p.m. Aug. 16. One of her daughters was grazed by the bullet, too. She was treated and recovered.
The Colemans’ lives would never be the same.
Among the deaths occurring every day, every second, are homicides. The killings leave families of the victims to deal not only with the tragic loss of a loved one but also all of the legal and investigative processes that play out — or sometimes stall — in the aftermath of such deaths.
In East Baton Rouge Parish, at least 63 people were killed in 2014 in what authorities classified as homicides that were neither accidental, nor negligent, nor justified. That total represented the second year of a decrease in murders across the parish, compared with earlier this decade, although the per capita rate remains high for a midsized city.
Among those murdered were children, such as Terrez, along with mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. And for some family members of those victims recently interviewed, time — often cited as one of the most reliable balms for death-related grief — has not yet done much to numb their pain.
“Everybody says, ‘Oh, you know, it’s going to get easier as time goes by,’ ” said Dawn Van, whose 30-year-old daughter, Lucinda Ann White, was fatally shot in March. “But it doesn’t. I miss her so much. My heart breaks just even talking about her.”
The death of Van’s daughter brought with it, along with an immeasurable feeling of emptiness, a custody battle for White’s three young boys.
The father of two of the boys, Jason Allen Bringier, is in jail awaiting trial. Bringier, White’s 33-year-old longtime boyfriend, is accused of shooting her in the head at their Toulon Street home on March 24.
After White was killed, both Bringier’s mother and Van sought custody of the three children, even though one of them wasn’t Bringier’s child. Van ended up winning, although Bringier’s children now spend alternate weekends with their other grandmother, while the boy who wasn’t Bringier’s spends some weekends with his father.
On top of this busy schedule, the boys also must attend traumatic therapy sessions. And recently, the youngest child was diagnosed with autism, Van, 54, said.
“I’m so busy with trying to deal with the kids and their therapy and just everyday things,” Van said. She loves her grandchildren, she said, but she never thought she would have to raise them without her daughter.
Clara Davis, Van’s mother and White’s grandmother, said her granddaughter’s death has been hard on everyone in the family. She also lamented the wait inherent in the criminal justice system.
“I just wish it was over with,” Davis said.
Anna Xanders said she feels the same way.
Her father, 55-year-old John Bannon, died on Valentine’s Day after suffering fatal injuries in an attack two weeks earlier near his home in a neighborhood off Staring Lane. Two teens — Windall Herring, now 20, and Donnell Harris, now 16 — were indicted in March on second-degree murder charges. They’re accused of attacking Bannon simply because he happened to be walking near them when the two teens and another were encouraging one another to pick a fight, according to police documents.
“It’s just an unnatural way to die, and unnecessary,” Xanders said. “It’s hard to have closure or peace about it, especially when the whole legal thing is still going on and will be for a while.”
Xanders said the reality of her father’s death still hasn’t fully sunk in, particularly because she didn’t see him much since he moved to Baton Rouge from their home state of Indiana a few years ago.
“It’s hard,” she said. “I guess it hasn’t really gotten any easier.”
Xanders cherishes the few photographs she has of Bannon and her son, Jackson. Bannon visited them shortly after Jackson’s birth in 2011. It was the only time he saw his grandson.
After Bannon’s death, his daughter received his most-prized possession, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. If Bannon were still alive, Xanders said, he probably already would’ve taken his grandson for a spin.
Although she likely will be waiting a while before the legal proceedings regarding her father’s death are completed, Xanders is glad authorities were able to catch the suspects accused of killing him.
“That is one little piece of good,” Xanders said. “But who knows what’s going to happen with the case in the end.”
Many other families, including the Colemans, are left holding out hope for a break in the investigation, waiting for a shred of new information that might ultimately lead to the capture of a killer.
“He was an innocent child. We were just minding our own business,” Felicia Coleman said. “It’s sad that nobody will speak up and say anything.”
The Colemans begged anyone with information about their son’s death to contact authorities or Crime Stoppers. A $12,500 reward remains available for information leading to an arrest, Felicia Coleman said.
“Say something,” she said. “Somebody knows something.”
Follow Ben Wallace on Twitter, @_BenWallace.